Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bringing the Funny

Humor's a funny thing.


As am I, clearly.

Seriously though, I find it fascinating how humor is at once so individual and so universal. There are some things that we all agree on - like cats freaking out at anything is always, always funny.

But then some things are cultural - take the British and American versions of The Office, for instance. There's a reason they made two separate versions. Different things appeal to American and British viewers. And if you watch both of the shows you can see some of the changes they made. In the British version every single character is irredeemably worthless and horrible - that's the joke. But in the American version, although a lot of the characters are jerks they all have moments where their better nature comes to light, and even Michael Scott is relatable to some extent. The humor comes from other places.

To give a more personal example of this, I turned on a song in the car the other day. There's a verse in it that goes

It's my problem, it's my problemIf I feel the need to hideAnd it's my problem if I have no friendsAnd feel I want to die
My british mom's reaction to that line was to laugh out loud. To her, coming from a culture where people are fairly closed-off about their emotions, this is completely over the top and the only reason anybody would say it was for a joke. On the other hand, my American friends listen solemnly and hear it as a plea for help from a desperate person. Cultures! They're different!

And of course, humor differs on an individual level too. No matter how many times people make me watch it, I will never get Monty Python. I'm sorry, shun me later. I just do not find a single thing in it funny. I find William Brinkley laugh-out-loud hysterical (literally; let's just say reading The Fun House in Starbucks was not my brightest idea), but the people I've attempted to force it on lend it to have found it dated and flat.

What do you find funny that nobody else does?

At least we'll always have cats.


  1. This confirms my suspicions that I am secretly British... >.>

  2. I was noodling on the British vs American sense of humor question recently (reading a Fforde book) and trying to think of American examples of all-out farce. The TV show Archer is as good an example as I could find. I was *really* struggling to think of good American literary farce.

    To your question, I find sports announcers to be HILARIOUS. "This team is really in it to win it!" Um .... aren't all teams, everywhere?

    1. I think the key to mainstream American humor is hyperbole. If you look at really popular shows like The Simpson's, Family Guy, South Park, and Scrubs, there's a common denominator there - they all showcase huge tangents where characters go off in a dreamworld where they show what their ridiculous ideas would look like for real.

  3. Yeah, cats are universally funny. ^_^
    My sister would find that song funny. She's relatively closed off emotionally though, so it all makes sense now. Lol!

    I like really bad jokes. Jokes where the person telling them are trying too hard to be funny, so hard they're making a fool out of themselves. It never fails, if I'm at a comedy show with other people, I will always, always laugh at jokes no one else finds funny.

    1. Lol! I'm sure that comedians love you. Probably makes some of the poor dears' nights.

  4. I do love Monty Python, but I couldn't get into the British version of The Office. I like humor that doesn't take itself too seriously, but at the same time, I don't really care for "stupid" humor. (For example, my husband and his brother laughed uproariously at Will Ferrell's "Step-Brothers", and that movie couldn't have been over fast enough for me.)

    In other words, I have no idea what will consistently make me laugh and what will not. :D

    1. I'll just be over here shuddering at the idea of sitting through an entire Will Ferrell movie.